I’m often asked about my favourite places in Java and I often reply with expected responses such as “Bromo — it is spectacular” and “Dieng — a mystical paradise in the mountains”. But I also mention places such as Karimunjawa and Ujung Genteng, both of which receive very few foreign tourists, but are stunning places well worth checking out.
Ujung Genteng translated literally means “end of the roof tile”, which makes no sense at all really. Some think that it was once called Ujung Gunting which means “end of the scissors” — which seems similarly farcical to me. But the theory goes that some parts of the land at Ujung Genteng are shaped like scissors and that people named it for the terrain. Sounds implausible, but I’m no historian. What I do know about is how spectacular this place is.
Ujung Genteng lies on the south coast of west Java about 110 kilometres from the provincial city of Sukabumi. The main reason foreign tourists visit this place is to surf the world famous “Turtles” break, but be assured that these visitors are few and far between, especially in the off season which spans almost the whole year. If you visit Ujung Genteng, you’ll be lucky to see another foreign tourist during your stay.
Apart from the draw of the surf, there is simply mile after mile of beautiful coastline. During low tide, it can look quite unimpressive and when we first visited we thought we had stumbled upon a dud of a place. But low-tide doesn’t stay around too long and the less impressive rocky shoreline soon turns into an shallow ocean of aquamarine water which takes the breath away.
Because the water is quite shallow along most parts of the coast, it’s possible to have a swim without feeling like you’re going to get sucked out to sea. Locals are happy to offer to take you out snorkelling or spearfishing — a great idea as apart from fish there really isn’t a whole lot to eat around these parts.
Further up the coast a turtle conservation organisation operates a small hatchery. Most nights, large turtles drag themselves up the beach and lay eggs as they have done for millenia. Staff at the hatchery dig up the eggs and take them to the nearby office where they rebury them in order to ensure maximum survival rates and prevent poaching. These eggs are incubated for a time and the hatchlings released back onto the same beach their mother originally laid them on. Both of these spectacles can be viewed for a small donation on the beach outside the conservation office about two kilometres north of where most accommodation in Ujung Genteng is located — it’s a fabulous experience.
Around 22 kilometres from Ujung Genting a spectacular three-pronged waterfall tumbles out of the forest into a clear rocky pool. During the dry season in the months of June, July and August water often doesn’t flow over these falls, but throughout the rest of the year this sight is a worthwhile excursion from Ujung Genteng.
Ojeks usually charge 100,000 rupiah for the journey which is slightly over the odds, so it’s imperative that you negotiate. Better still, hire your own motorbike and make the journey yourself: simply travel from Ujung Genteng back to Surade and a kilometre after Surade, take a right at the only major road. Follow that road for seven kilometres until a sign for the waterfall appears. A parking area is 500 metres from there. An entrance fee is payable to see this waterfall; locals warn of corrupt local government officials recycling tickets purchased by visitors and pocketing the money.
Ujung Genteng is one of those places that feels like your own personal hidden paradise. Accommodation is very basic, but those wishing to pay a bit more for some creature comforts are best advised to ignore all other options and grab the double room at Batu Besar for about 260,000 rupiah, dependent on season.
Getting to Ujung Genteng can seem like a bit of a hassle and a detour if you’re planning on travelling from one end of Java to the other. But some of the highlights of Java are off the main tourist trail and spending an extra day or two can really change your experience.
Firstly, you need to get to Sukabumi from wherever you are. Buses depart from Bandung’s Leuwi Panjang and take three hours and cost 21,000 rupiah. From Jakarta, the best bet is to get to Kampung Rambutan bus terminal for onward bus travel to Sukambumi. From Sukabumi’s main bus terminal, you have to catch an angkot for 5,000 rupiah to the Lembur Situ bus terminal, also in Sukabumi, where buses leave for Surade (3.5hr/20,000 rupiah). There are two types of buses heading to Surade. Catch the biggest bus you can find as it will be much quicker.
Once in Surade, catch an angkot to Ujung Genteng for 10,000 rupiah, but don’t be fooled by the angkot driver who will ask you to charter the angkot due to lack of passengers. Once in Ujung Genteng, you may need to hire an ojek to get to your accommodation, depending on its location. Our suggestion is to take a good look around at the accommodation as quality and price varies considerably and better deals are available once you get on the back of a motorbike and head north.
Ujung Genting is simply spectacular. It certainly is a bit of a hassle to get to, but the reward is this: absolute perfection.
By Adam Poskitt
Last updated on 28th November, 2014.